I Am an Angry Black Woman.
When my husband and I moved back to LA from Chicago, I was excited to start auditioning again. Chicago had brought me some success with music and acting. I gained a new perspective and a renewed tenacity for my career and was ready to hit the ground running.
I was extremely excited about a role in a film for which I was called to audition. The character seemed like someone I knew I could play. After I did the initial audition, I felt great about it. I got a callback and then another callback.
After these, I was in the final running for the role. Next were chemistry reads with the male lead. Before I started my final read, the casting director in the room said to me:
“You’re great… but you talk very proper. Can you sass it up a little? You know...”
I laughed and said, “Oh, I can turn it on for sure.”
But inside I felt like a piece of me died. I was no longer enthusiastic about the role and I didn’t want to appease this person whose view of me, of black people, was so reductive. But I took a deep breath and did my best to step into the stereotype they wanted.
Still, I was frustrated. I was upset. The role was generic and didn’t call for the character to fit the “sassy black woman” trope. But that’s all they saw us as, and apparently my version of blackness wasn’t black enough for the white people in that room.
My entire life has been filled with moments like this. Hurtful comments, ignorant observations, snarky jokes and gross assumptions.
“Smile, Malynda… so we can see you when it’s dark.”
“You don’t SOUND black. You’re like… white.”
“Can you be more sassy? ‘Black it up’ a little?”
“You aren’t even THAT dark.” (As if being THAT dark is a bad thing)
These were all situations I felt I could never properly react to for fear of being viewed as an angry black woman.
You see, if a black woman speaks on what she feels and how she feels, she’s angry. Suddenly, she isn’t a human being whose feelings were hurt and is letting you know how your words made her feel. Suddenly, SHE is in the wrong.
If we as black women choose to do the natural human thing and defend ourselves from things that we find offensive, it is OUR fault for letting it affect us, and not being able to take it as a joke and laugh in the moment.
If we as black women bring to the attention of those around us that what they said or did was inappropriate—or, dare I say, racist—we are the ones who are immediately exiled from the surrounding community.
We are called bossy, angry, too strong, combative, intense. A bitch. All words I’ve heard too often simply for standing up for myself.
The angry black woman trope has always been used as a way to silence black women and invalidate feelings that are completely warranted.
This has been my story and my testimony for as long as I can remember.
So I’ve stood by quietly. Not speaking my mind. Afraid to stand up for myself. Afraid to “start conflict”.
I’ve laughed, uncomfortably at the jokes. I’ve smiled at the subtle racist remarks.
I’ve ignored words that hurt.
And after years and years of pushing down feelings that I was not allowed to feel, excusing words of people I called my friends and accepting the actions of people who were my peers, how would you expect me to feel?
You’re damn right, I’m angry.